Our Anger Over This Continuing “Old Firm” Insult Is What Must Drive Us On Today.

Celtic F.C.Today Sevco will play against Celtic at our home ground, for the very first time. Two matches at Hampden against a Ronny Deila team have lulled some of these players into a false sense of security. Some of them have never been in an atmosphere like this in their lives.

The media has hyped this game up, as they will forever more. I’m resigned to that fact, but it should give us the upper hand more often than not, because as long as we’re in front of their club they are the ones who have to rise to the occasion.

I don’t want to get into knocking Ronny today; that’s an era at our club that delivered two titles and he deserves credit for that. But in two matches against Sevco we never once showed the limits of our superiority, except for a spell in the first one. It was as if, in that tie, we played within ourselves, treating it as a simple exercise in going through.

I was delighted at the time, but it’s burned me since. We ought to have stuck six past them that day, and I will never fully understand what stopped us from doing so. They were a demoralised shambles, ripe for us handing out a right good tanking.

The second game was a disgrace, pure and simple, with the most negative tactics I’ve ever seen administered by a Celtic boss in a domestic cup match. Back in the days when Rangers were around, I saw Celtic managers who went into those games spectacularly outgunned, but until Hampden last year I never saw one go out and play for a draw.

Brendan Rodgers is not Ronny Deila; he understands what drives our club. He gets it, and as long as the media wants to call this a Celtic – Rangers game, I expect him to approach it as if it were, whilst understanding that we’re much the superior team. In short, I expect him to feel the same raw emotion as we do, the same will to administer the football equivalent of a punishment beating today. This mob are more than just jumped up upstarts; they are vain, arrogant, boastful, prideful and in need of bringing rapidly, and painfully, back to Earth.

Today should hurt. Today should be psychologically wrecking. We should start at high speed and not stop until the final whistle. Don’t get me wrong, I believe Barcelona in midweek is a much more important game, but that should not be used as an excuse or a reason to be soft today. Our players and our manager know how important this one is.

The existence of Sevco, playing in the guise of Rangers, the assertion that they are one in the same, is an insult to every club in the land, but Celtic especially.

Because we’re the club who was damaged most in the era of Ibrox cheating, and we are the club the media endlessly tries to shoehorn into this corrupt notion of a rivalry based on hate, and it doesn’t matter what we as supporters say or do. This website has written a thousand times that we want nothing to do with this. I wrote it on E-Tims and on The CelticBlog, and every other Celtic blogger is unanimous in saying the same.

I can’t put it more plainly than to say this; every single word I’ve written on that club in the last four years has been a reaction to this debased idea. As a Celtic fan and a Celtic blogger I do not want any part in this media inspired, PR fantasy and I don’t care whether they call themselves after the OldCo, accept they’re a NewCo or get fully on board, at last, with the facts as we know them; just leave us out of it.

Stop trying to drag us into your grubby circle.

I care about the Survival Lie only inasmuch as it affects Celtic and the reason I am such a passionate advocate of calling this what it is, is that as long as the media pretends they are Rangers they will drag us into the swamp chained to the hated Old Firm term.

So, I suggest this; if the media and their supporters put their guns away, I’ll put away mine. I’ll stop banging on about them being a NewCo. Hell, I’ll even stop calling them Sevco. As long as they accept, at last, that Celtic fans could care less, and just want shot of them.

Take this millstone from around our necks, consign that ugly phrase and loathed tag to the dustbin of history, treat this like just another game, and as far as I’m concerned they can get on with pretending to be whatever the Hell they want and I’ll be as happy to indulge their fantasy as I would be to grant the local glue sniffer his fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Because all I care about is the well-being of my club, and this rancid association and its toxic connotations has been smothering us for far too long.

Back in 2012, when liquidation and death overwhelmed them, any number of their fans and media apologists clung to the idea that, deep down, we needed them and wanted them, as if they were necessary to validate our own existence.

Over the four years of Sevco, one of the things that’s bothered them most is the slow dawning realisation that we weren’t even remotely kidding … if they’d been swallowed up completely and no version of them ever rose again, we wouldn’t have missed them far less mourned them.

They call us obsessed anyway, not recognising for a second that nearly every single word on this blog and others in relation to them has been written from the perspective of people who are happy their club is dead and would be even happier if no version of it existed at all. They can call that hate as they like, but I’ve seen what real hate looks like.

I grew up sharing a city and a country with it, and it didn’t flow from their ordinary supporters, amongst whose ranks I’ve had colleagues, relations, great love affairs and lifelong friendships. No, it flowed from the institution itself, because it was built on that emotion, marketed on it and for years thrived by sucking greedily at every morsel of that hate which spilled into the public sphere. I am entitled to hate the institution a little because of it.

What was it Liam Neeson said in Michael Collins?

“I do hate them. I hate them for making hate necessary.”

When Sevco was formed, it had a chance to consign that hate to the grave.

It didn’t.

It used it as a foundation stone, and so along with the Survival Lie the Victim Lie was born.

They say that Scottish football depends on them, and Celtic most of all.

Paul67 is the guy I credit with best getting right to the heart of the matter; “Whichever part of my club is dependent on Rangers, I am quite willing to lose,” he said, in 2012. He spoke for a great many of us that day, almost every single person I know.

But one of the many truths they just can’t face is that Scottish football thrived without all this, even as every day at Ibrox there was another psychodrama in the media. Four long years of their dirty laundry, hanging out there for everyone to see, as they struggled to stay relevant in a world which wouldn’t have given a shit that they were there at all but for the constant wailing, like a child trying to get attention.

Yet strip it all down and what do you find?

You find the real obsession.

You find the real dependency.

It’s all tied up in the Old Firm tag.

Because they are like a junkie who just can’t kick the habit.

They need it, like a vampire needs blood; they need it for their very survival.

You never read reference to the Old Firm on Celtic sites unless, like here, we’re denying we want any part of it, but it is promoted, endlessly, on theirs, along with the pitiful, almost pleading, suggestion that without it we’d be less than what we are … which is their way of admitting that without it they would be absolutely nothing at all.

Because they do define themselves by this rivalry, and in the end it’s all they’ve got, the one thing they cling to that makes them important in a world that otherwise would have passed them by a long, long time ago. Their backward, irredeemably narrow appeal renders them insignificant without the Old Firm name because without that who outside of Scotland would even care they existed at all?

I believe Celtic survives quite well without it.

Our existence as a football club and a social institution neither relies on nor is helped by an ugly PR invention at the end of which are fist-fights and stabbings and drunken yobs fighting in the street and the promotion over and over and over again of blind hate.

Today I want us to win, and I want us to win big, and it’s not because they are our biggest rivals.

It’s because they aren’t.

It’s not because we’re participants, willing or otherwise, in this rivalry they call the Old Firm.

It’s because we’re not and we don’t want to be.

I want the win, the big win, because I want to be done with this nonsense once and for all, and I’ve come to believe that the best way to do is to expose the lie for what it is, but not by UEFA letters or media admissions, or changing the minds of their ridiculous fans … the best way to do it is to burst the fantasy bubble, to expose this idea to the ridicule it deserves, to destroy the notion that this is a rivalry at all.

Because once that illusion is gone, I think the Ibrox operation will collapse, and then we might well get what we should have in 2012 … a world where the Old Firm tag is never used to define our football club again.

If there was ever a good reason for wanting to see our team win a game, that’s surely it.

In Brendan We Trust.

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Sky Sports Scotland Insults Scottish Football With Talk Of Rangers’ “Demotion”

3Gduepif0T1UGY8H4yMDoxOjBzMTtyGkSky Sports Scotland has had a bad reputation for a while now. This section of the broadcasting monolith has an almost pathological fixation with what’s going on at Sevco, sometimes to the detriment of the rest of the sport.

Regular viewers can pick their own examples, but the ones that come most to mind for me and for others are Jim White’s fawning over Charles Green in his “deathbed confession”, his lickspittle interview in South Africa with Dodgy Dave King and Charles Patterson and Luke Shanley spending so much time standing outside Ibrox and Murray Park that they might as well have opened a special Sevco broadcasting unit and put beds in there for them.

Today Sky Sports Scotland hit a new low, when they decided to open their coverage for the season at Ibrox, and to include in the press release a scandalous statement about how the club was “demoted” for “financial irregularities.”

I agree with the second bit, in a conceptual sense.

It is as close to suggesting that what happened to Rangers was an act of fraud as they think they can get away with, although it hasn’t stopped myself and others from calling it exactly that, and in those very words. It was an act of fraud, as Sevco’s continuing to trade without the funds to complete a season is.

But Sevco is a new club, which started at the bottom as every new club should.

Sky’s press release insults every Scottish football fan, including a large number of their own subscribers. They may as well have slapped a advert for Android boxes on the bottom of the piece, as that’s exactly how many people will choose to “enjoy” their coverage from now on. This is one of many reasons why people would rather buy dodgy gear than give money to people who’s penchant for slabbering on Sevco is known and who’s relationship with the truth appears fleeting at best.

There was, of course, no demotion.

It’s one of the most absurd statements I’ve seen published on their website in many moons. It’s a concept so discredited you barely see it anywhere except on the more lunatic Sevco fan forums and blogs. There, I don’t mind it. Demented people believe in crazy things. I resent seeing it where people might take it seriously, where it might promote a distorted image of our game.

This isn’t even pandering; it’s flat out lying.

There are people who ask when Scottish football is going to “get past this” stuff. There’s no getting past this until people are honest about exactly what’s taken place here. A lot of us would be happy to move on, but this constant bullshitting isn’t going to be allowed to stand and it isn’t just Celtic supporters who are furious about this garbage.

None of this does them any favours. None of this does Sevco any favours. That club is stuck in the mud by a blind refusal to accept its actual status; not that of a giant in the game but that of a perennial struggler, skint and powerless but still with friends where they think they can have an influence. The longer they cling to this illusion of superiority and supremacy – the very last trait they should have ported over from DeadCo – the tougher ahead the road will be.

Celtic is moving forward with purpose, with a brilliant new manager and what look to be exciting signing targets. Yet Sky has decided we’re the sideshow, that the curtain raiser for the new season shouldn’t be the champions against the team that finished third, but a newly promoted club which has spent the summer scrambling around the bargain basement of free transfers and has-beens whilst its manager sulked on the other side of the Atlantic.

Such are the priorities of the broadcaster. Such is the way it views the Scottish game, and all this feeds into the demented egos of fans who simply have not adjusted to the reality of their actual position. That reality is coming soon, and it’s going to hurt a lot. Many of us are looking forward to seeing how fact and fantasy collide.

Sky clearly isn’t interesting in facts. They would rather live with, and in, the fantasy and the growing contempt in which the media is held in Scotland and beyond only grows greater with every single instance of something like this.

The truth is known to everyone. It was an article of faith before Charles Green scooped up the assets of the dead club that failing to get a CVA meant death. There was no demotion here. I cannot say that often enough, and it makes those who push this line look utterly ridiculous. Still, they continue to push it like a drug and those addicted to this WATP crap lap it up like Pavlov’s slabbering dogs. It defies belief, but it will no longer go unchallenged.

Are the Internet Bampots the only people in this damned country who are prepared to speak the truth on this issue?

Are we the only ones who care?

Sooner or later, the narrative is going to be scrubbed clean of all these lies.

There are those in a position to do it, and it becomes increasingly difficult to understand their reluctance to.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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The Storm Before The Calm

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_The_Death_of_Caesar_-_Walters_37884On 15 March 44BC a group of Roman senators, believing they were striking a blow for freedom, ambushed and murdered one of the most important men in history, Gaius Julius Caesar, the dictator, general, politician and statesman.

They had expected the acclaim of the masses. They had killed a tyrant after all.

Instead of celebrations, they were greeted with sullen silence. Caesar’s closest friend, Marc Anthony, capitalised on that. He negotiated a sham peace, and then at the funeral gave an oration that sparked a riot. The assassins fled, for their own safety.

Within two years, everyone involved in the plot to kill Caesar was dead.

The seeds of their stunning downfall had been sown in the act itself. They never stood a chance.

First, the plan had left Anthony alive when the smart thing to do would have been to kill him, and second, and more important, they had reckoned without Caesar, who had chosen his successor with the greatest care.

It was his nephew Octavian, then just 18.

Octavian had all the political skills of Caesar. Although not as fine a general, he was more ruthless than his uncle. Whereas Caesar had spared the lives of many of his political rivals, Octavian executed everyone who wasn’t firmly fixed in his own camp.

Gaius Octavian became Augustus. He transitioned the Roman Republic out of existence, and became the first Emperor, in the ultimate irony as it was the Republic that Brutus, Cassius and the other assassins had killed Caesar to maintain.

Caesar’s assassins would never have killed him had they an inkling of the skills young Octavian possessed, and they would certainly have balked at the act had they known that for years it was the dictator himself who was the key restraining influence on Marc Anthony, who would have had many of them executed far in advance of that deadly day.

The fate of those men is history’s great cautionary tale, but it’s not the only one.

It’s dangerous to carry out an assassination if you’re unsure of what might follow it, and you should never assume you know what that will be.

I think often of the Rangers fans who danced and celebrated Inverness’ stunning victory over Celtic in the Scottish Cup back in August 2000, which led to the sacking of John Barnes.

Had they known what would follow that night I doubt they’d have partied so long or so hard.

Likewise, I know of no Celtic fan who was happy on the day that McCoist fell, or on the day Sevco decided Stuart McCall would not lead them into a full season. We never wanted those men gone; we liked them just fine right where they were.

I know that some of the Sevco fans who danced in the stands at Hampden on Sunday last week did so with a heavy heart; they never wanted to see Ronny Deila fall. Celtic winning the double would have appeased enough supporters, maybe, that the board would have risked keeping him in place for another year. That would have suited Sevco just fine.

As it is, Deila is packing his bags.

Without knowing who’s coming in, it’s hard to say what Celtic will look like this time next year, but one thing is for sure; we’ll be better off for it.

As if watching Deila fall wasn’t bad enough for them, their victory may just have shaken up more than just the dugout.

If it has, then it’s truly been a  Pyrrhic win because the last thing their fans wanted to see was a fundamental shift in the approach at Celtic Park.

Yet to outsiders it still looks like Celtic is in meltdown. The fans are staying away. The board is unpopular and teetering on the brink of crisis. Many of the players are a waste of a jersey. The manager is shockingly inept, with woeful tactics.

And yet … it’s impossible not to see this as the storm before the calm.

And at the end of the storm is a golden sky.

Because Celtic is changing.

This is what change looks like.

It’s painful and it’s dramatic and it’s often scary when you’re in the midst of it.

Even as our slumbering club comes fully awake for the first time maybe in years the club across the city is celebrating victory before the war’s even won … and you know something? I think they’re going to get the biggest shock since Cassius and Brutus stood watching Marc Anthony give the most inflammatory funeral speech of all time.

For one thing, they’re not as good as that media would have you believe. The league table never lies, they say; well try this for size. After the same number of games as Celtic this season they’re not much better off, points wise, than we are. The difference is that we’ve not been playing second tier, even amatuer, teams all season.

The media which lauds them, and the fans who follow them blindly, are labouring under an enormous – and dangerous – misconception, that just because Celtic is stagnant and vulnerable looking that we are somehow as weak as they are.

It’s not true.

Our club is immeasurably stronger than theirs is.

They are mistaking weak leadership for a flaw in the system itself. No such flaw exists. Leadership aside, Celtic is a machine. It’s been running on 20% power, and some have taken that to be the maximum it’s capable of.

This is foolish in the extreme.

The resources at our disposal absolutely dwarf what they can bring to bear.

Our financial position is rock solid. With the right man in the manager’s office and the right strategy behind him we are capable of burying any threat they, or anyone else, is likely to pose.

This is all about the fundamentals, and when you break down the facts and the figures we are in front of them by every accepted standard. We appear less than we are at the moment; a consequence of that appalling management.

Get that part of it right … and this isn’t even a contest.

Let’s take but one example; the stadium.

Our stadium has a higher capacity than Ibrox, and this haunted David Murray all the way through his last years at Rangers. Those 10,000 extra seats represent more than just bragging rights. As Fergus understood full well when he laid the plans for Celtic Park, they confer a huge financial advantage upon us if we can fill them.

With a plan in place to restore us to our rightful status, and the supporters on board with that and returning in numbers, those seats allow us to open up a gap King and his cronies simply cannot bridge, no matter what they do.

Their club is still six years from a favourable merchandising deal.

They are at least ten away from being able to navigate beyond the earliest rounds in Europe, should they ever manage to get there. Without real European income, their chances of catching a Celtic side that has that advantage are somewhere between slim and none. To open up that gap, we have to do our own part but even that isn’t as difficult as some would have you believe.

I would suggest that a better manager than Deila would, with the players to hand, have gotten us past Maribor and Malmo and possibly even Legia Warsaw. Those who say our chances of qualifying are getting worse by the year are looking at the world through blue tinted glasses. We had the measure of these clubs. Our squad is better than theirs. Managerial failings are what made the difference.

Even without Champions League qualification next season, however, there should be no question of us failing to reach the Europa League groups at the very least and this, in itself, will put us on another financial plane entirely unless Warburton – completely untested at that level and with a second tier squad of players – was able to achieve the same; unlikely if we’re being generous.

It’s been five years since Rangers was washed away in the aftermath of Craig Whyte’s disastrous reign, but what Whyte did was simply acknowledge the truth that still dare not speak its name; Rangers was a financial basket case.

What we think of as that club’s strength and power was built on sand.

Stripped of the bank funding that allowed their glory years, they fell into complete ruin and then oblivion.

Whatever the club playing out of Ibrox might call itself, no matter what history it might shamelessly and fraudulently claim, the similarity ends with blue jerseys and the logo on them.

I cannot accentuate this point enough, and yet I’ve had to over and over again.

The Rangers we knew never really existed; it was smoke and mirrors, a shadow on the wall. They were never a financial superpower, merely a club whose owner was hyped up and feted by a bank that was out of control in an era when reckless spending seemed almost virtuous. Without the criminal indulgence of Masterton and Cummings there’d have been no nine in a row, no Gazza, no Laudrup.

On its own, Rangers could never have bought these players, and these before EBT’s gave them another advantage they wouldn’t otherwise have had and which is denied to them today.

When Murray and his flexible friend were no longer on hand, that club was only heading one way;

“Express elevator to Hell … going down.”

Without a sugar daddy in charge, this was inevitable and if Sevco is ever to scale those heights it’s going to take another one to get them there.

And those are in short supply.

In the meantime, as King goes cap in hand to his fellow directors and Paul Murray pulls up the sofa cushions looking for loose change, over at Celtic Park, a long dormant engine is growling back into life. The gears may need a little grease and some of the spark plugs might need replacing, but this machine is essentially sound and when it gets rolling it will be a ten ton tank next to their refurbished Vauxhall Velox. Oh they can pretty up theirs as they like, but when the time comes we’re going to drive our war machine right over it.

But first, a period of turmoil when to the outside world it will look like we’re mired in crisis.

To Brutus and Cassius, Marc Anthony’s political manoeuvring must have looked a little like that, like the scrambling of a desperate man, determined to hang on to what little he had left in the world.

They were wrong, as so many of those looking at Celtic are wrong.

They ought not to feel bad when the reversal of all they thought they knew finally comes about. The historical tendency of those who win a major victory is to believe it’s the same as winning the war.

One of the most potent examples was on 7 December, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, achieving as they saw it the conditions that would allow them dominion over the Pacific.

One senior admiral knew it was not so, and although there’s no evidence he used the words which are often ascribed to him, Yamamoto’s foreboding proved warranted. “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

Sevco fans, take note.

Celtic is awake. You’re the ones who did it.

Enjoy your moment.

For you, this is the calm before the storm.

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Celtic Fans Know The Difference Between Bigotry And Political Expression

Celtic F.C.The charity Nil By Mouth has called on Scottish football clubs to accept “strict liability” when the SFA next puts it up for debate and a vote.

The organisation founded by the fiancé of Mark Scott, the Celtic fan murdered at Bridgeton Cross by the psychotic Jason Campbell has long concentrated its guns on football fans and was a vocal supporter of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act which has done little more than criminalise free expression and political singing of a sort much of Scotland doesn’t like.

This statement came on the same day that Stewart Regan is all over the papers trying to push the issue. This suggests more than a little bandwagon jumping going on.

Before we know it, politicians who’ve not been in the papers for a while will be all in favour … just watch.

I want to be clear that I have no issue with Nil By Mouth per se.

How could I have?

The organisation exists to combat sectarianism and hate in our society, but I have a problem with the way in which they and other organisations – including Police Scotland – conflate these matters with legitimate political expression … the kind that supports Irish nationalism as opposed to, say, Scottish independence.

I support Scottish independence, and it infuriates me how some people can make all sorts of allowances for one whilst making none for the other. Granted, that isn’t as widespread as the anti-Irish sentiment which courses through many supporters of the union, but it is definitely there, in small ways, and in big ones too like the SNP’s much hated law.

I get tired of trying to educate people on this.

It seems that some folk just don’t want to bloody well hear it, and I find their attitudes entirely dishonest as a result of that.

Nil By Mouth’s statement was picked up by, amongst other media outlets, The Scotsman, where Andrew Smith’s opening paragraph was “Anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth has backed calls to introduce strict liability rules to Scottish football, with campaign director Dave Scott stating yesterday that “people are fed up to the back teeth” with behaviour that the group maintains fuels religious bigotry.

Let’s separate the fact from the fiction here.

First fact: Celtic fans do not engage in sectarian singing.

There is one song – a so-called version of Roamin’ In The Gloamin’ – who’s lyrics are so excruciating, waxing lyrical about how good it is to “be a Roman Catholic” that it’s certainly offensive (especially to Catholics) but even it doesn’t openly stray into hatred although it is mind-numbingly ignorant.

It’s the kind of thing that once passed for wit and which someone probably made up in a pub fifty years or so ago without any thought as to what the lyrics actually mean.

Listen to them if you don’t believe me.

It’s a collection of words with no coherence.

There’s a reference to St Patrick, who was born in the 5th Century, John Knox, who was born in the 16th Century and to King Billy, who was born in the 17th Century. I don’t know how you feel about a song that mentions all three drawing no connection whatsoever between them, but to me it’s the trademark of barely literate goons.

Most people realise this, and find the song crawl-under-the-bed embarrassing.

I haven’t heard it sung, by more than handfuls of drunk arseholes, for years.

There’s a chant you used to hear a lot, but which has also been on the wane for years, referring to dirty orange people of questionable parentage; I recommend those offended by that speak to the Orange Order, to which it’s a clear reference.

They are a sectarian organisation and a secret society, rabidly unionist and affiliated with the far right of British and Irish politics.

That chant is generally used in relation to referees, a number of whom have been proven to be members of said secret society, and whose professional ranks behave more and more like one with every year that passes.

The key term is “Orange”.

Not Protestant.

There is no sectarian connotation to that chant.

Then there’s the H word, which I rarely use and which has never been a reference to any religious affiliation but more about a set of behavioural norms; rioting, nazi salutes, spreading fear and taking part in general disorder … things for which a certain Scottish club’s fans were once famous. It’s also about having no respect for traditions, or loyalty, or lacking a certain moral character.

I have had long brainstorming sessions with people on this subject, and on the etymology of the word itself, tracing it back to Attila and to the Germans in World War I and 2 … and I’m always asked, in the context of Scottish football, who I regard as fitting the bill.

I once answered thus;

I consider Graham Souness to be one, but Trevor Steven not. I know for a fact Maurice Johnstone is one, but never thought Brian Laudrup was. Davie Provan, Charlie Nicholas and Jim Traynor are definitely amongst their number but I never for one second thought Graham Speirs, Alan Davidson or Ian Crocker were. Large sections of the Sevco support fit the bill. A small section of the Celtic support does too, and there are numbers of them at other clubs like Hearts, Motherwell, Aberdeen, Kilmarnock, Inverness and elsewhere.

I agree with the general sentiment behind Nil By Mouth’s statement, but that organisation is like so many others in this country; it tiptoes around things when it ought to stride forward with purpose.

There is bigotry in Scotland, sectarian intolerance that is both broad and, in some places, deep.

The fault isn’t to be found in football stadiums, although some of its practitioners go to games.

Anti-Catholic and anti-Irish hatred is still a profound problem, and one of the reasons it remains so is that those who practice it often hide behind seemingly legitimate initiatives like this one.

Which brings us to the second inconvenient truth: there was no need to pass the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act.

Laws already existed to confront those who engaged in sectarian behaviour; the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act changed nothing except that it placed singing Republican songs into the same bracket as someone singing one of the more horrible hate anthems you’d expect to hear from the people who hailed Jason Campbell a hero.

What that law did is created a moral equivalence between the two, and that’s one of the most tragic features of it.

Because there is none.

The issue is bigger than just Nil By Mouth, but they have a high profile and they get a lot of attention whenever they put out a statement like this. They might not want to further the agendas of the very people they deplore, but I’ll tell you what … they do.

There are people who live in this country who would love to see every expression of Irishness outlawed, who would love every Catholic school closed, who blame us for creating intolerance when, actually, it stares back at them from the mirror.

No other religious or social group in this country is subject to this constant sniping and questioning of its values.

We don’t have a profound problem in this country with anti-Islamic sentiment; in fact, in comparison to certain parts of England things are positively harmonious. We also don’t have a serious issue with anti-Semitism.

Anti-Catholic hatred is Scotland’s own peculiar little fixation, and that has long had its roots deep in anti-Irishness.

The difference is that in some ways it’s now public policy.

Listen, I understand full well that there are people who don’t enjoy hearing the Republican stuff in football grounds. But I don’t mind saying I know those songs by heart, and I defy anyone to tell me where one of them – even one – promotes hate.

Supporting a “proscribed organisation” isn’t the same.

The people who do the proscribing once had the ANC on that list.

The Republican movement now plays an active part in government.

The ANC is the South African government.

The difference is, they were never fighting the British.

You get the point?

You understand why one of those organisations is now feted and the other remains banned to this day?

Here’s a challenge I’ve laid down many, many, many, many times and I do so again with no doubt that the result will be the same as it’s been on all those other occasions; if someone can tell me where in those songs hatred is promoted I’ll close these websites the same day.

No-one will answer that. No-one ever does.

So whilst I do understand that people don’t want to hear this stuff, I’d say to them that, sadly, it’s just too bad because one of the prices we pay for living in a free society is that we often have to tolerate things we don’t actually like. I’m not suggesting they go and look the lyrics up and try and understand the context of them … too much to ask, by far.

I’m asking that they actually embrace understanding of another subject; tolerance itself. Because whether they know it or not, their own attitude is profoundly intolerant. It’s close-minded, insular and yes it’s also arrogant; that the freedoms other people enjoy should be stymied and limited because they dislike certain of their opinions and ideas.

Tolerance means embracing diversity. Hammering everyone into the same mould doesn’t come close to the definition of that. That’s called enforced conformity and I don’t think that’s a country any of us actually wants to live in.

My problem with what Nil By Mouth and other apparently well-meaning organisations are doing stumbling into this minefield is that they aren’t really talking about sectarianism at all … they’re talking about shrinking the definition of what they find “acceptable” and if they don’t understand the danger inherent in that I can’t explain it to them.

The third fiction is that strict liability has been a success for UEFA.

It’s not true.

Strict liability doesn’t reflect well on UEFA at all.

It was introduced to combat right wing extremists using football grounds as recruiting posts. I understand why the sport considered that an issue, but in trying to find a way to ban those groups they did what governing bodies always do when they try to ride the middle lane … they overshot the runway and passed rules where any form of political expression was banned.

Except those which suit them, of course.

One of the recent obscenities was their decision to fine Celtic for our fans flying Palestinian flags. I don’t know what our club’s official response to that was but it was a scandal that UEFA ever considered such a ludicrous action in the first place. Another example was the “F*** UEFA” banner the Celtic fans flew, and which resulted in another sanction.

A refusal to allow criticism is one of the defining characteristics of fascism.

It would be different if they actually took the rule seriously, but they don’t because they can’t.

There are a number of overtly political football clubs in Europe who’s very existence flies in the face of UEFA regulations and there are other clubs whose fans have adopted overtly political views; they stretch across the continent, from France to the farthest corners of Russia.

They are openly ideological and UEFA can’t come close to policing them and doesn’t even try.

Not only does strict liability not work, but it’s barely enforced.

Celtic is not an overtly political club.

Our fans reflect a broad sweep of society, and we pride ourselves on being “open to all”.

Yet some of our own supporters consistently fly in the face of that concept, and make a nonsense of it, trying to tell other fans what they should be singing and what flags they should be flying.

I sympathise with them, to a degree.

Because some of it does get the club into trouble, and that’s wrong.

But it’s the regulations I think are the problem here, and whilst I think they should be obeyed, as long as they last, I think our club should be committed, along with others, to changing them to better reflect the reality; football and politics have always been closely linked and always will be.

This isn’t about flares and smoke bombs.

Those are banned for entirely legitimate reasons and don’t belong in football grounds, and I am wholly supportive of any measure that removes them from the sport entirely.

This is about political expression, and existing UEFA rules on it are as wrong as they can be, and Nil By Mouth and the SFA now want those extended to cover Scottish football too, a country where Irish political expression is already punished enough and where the governing bodies and others don’t even try to hide the intent, which is to restrict the rights of supporters to properly express themselves inside stadiums.

Every Celtic fan should oppose this, and let the club know it, not that they have to because Celtic has never been in favour of it and that hasn’t changed.

This is my last word on this subject for a while.

For the record, I don’t expect “strict liability” to pass.

The clubs in the main don’t want it, because they understand that there will always be idiots in any support and the clubs can only do so much to weed them out. Only someone who doesn’t really understand football could believe otherwise.

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SFA “Strict Liability” Proposals Are A Direct Threat To Celtic

JS31156726Stewart Regan. Dear oh dear.

You have to give him his due; he seems to know what side his bread is buttered on, and just who butters it.

Any time there’s crisis or scandal at Ibrox he’s a long way from home, posted missing, silent on the subject.

I’d call it gutless, but he’s never quite so remiss when it comes to tackling Celtic.

We all know that this man will do anything at all to keep the club operating out of Ibrox afloat, whether that’s bending or flaunting regulations; ignoring others; allowing convicted criminals onto the board and even looking the other way as a potential fraud is going on.

That same attitude applies, of course, to the occasional outbreak of illegal singing, like the one against Hibs, which it seems he only discovered yesterday as it was the first he’s mentioned it … and then only fleetingly.

Another club’s supporters were the real target of his rant.

Who knew that all it would take to bring him out of the bunker was Celtic fans throwing a few flares?

Hell, we can’t have that in our national sport!

Let’s change the rules … so that we can punish the club for it!

Yes, whatever you say Stewart.

Except … no.

What balls this guy has. What a brass neck on him.

He and his lawyers are, doubtless, going to be working hard on the proposals for “strict liability” in the next week or two, and if Harper MacLeod can ratchet up the costs a bit who are any of us to stand in their way? They’ve got to make a buck too … but at the end of the day the fruit of these labours will wind up in the bin. It belongs there.

Frankly, Regan can wipe his arse with them for all I care.

If Celtic voted in favour of these proposals – and the chance of it is somewhere between slim and none; there is no way in the world we’re going to do it – then a cold day in Hell it would be, and the problems would mount up down the road until we couldn’t move forward for them.

When I heard he’d commented on this, and said “strict liability” was going back on the agenda I was honestly fuming, and flabbergasted at his brazenness. The statement itself is absurd, and offensive to those of us who’ve been following the backstory.

There can’t be another organisation – except the SPFL – which is so selective in the things it chooses to care about on any given day.

Regan feels he can bang the drum on this one because it was in the Scottish Cup … well it’s funny, as he seems to care so much; he said and did nothing last season when, at the very same ground, Dundee Utd fans did much the same thing.

Now, no-one should misinterpret this as me defending the guys with the flares.

I’ve already written about that over on The CelticBlog this week, and my views were pretty clear. The guys who do this are a menace, pure and simple, and ought not to be allowed inside football grounds.

But see, that’s a police matter. It’s got sod all to do with the sporting authorities. We ought to let the police deal with it, as they have been doing. Let the clubs find the people responsible and ban them, and then allow the machinery of the law to take over.

Football sanctions to clubs for the behaviour of a few neds?

God, why not just punish certain clubs (i.e. Celtic) before the season even starts?

Save time on the disciplinary hearings.

Because these rules will be so open-ended you might as well.

I would be willing to bet every penny I make in the first year of their existence that we would be in front of the beaks more than any other club, and that has nothing to do with our fans but everything to do with a media that would whip up controversy every chance it got and the governing bodies themselves who might even jump at the chance to make the league more “competitive” by deducting us points every so often.

As the rules stand right now, all a club has to do to get off free and clear – see Sevco and sectarian songs – is demonstrate that they’ve taken “all appropriate measures” to discourage that. No-one even knows what that actually means, and that’s very deliberate.

And you know what? I’m content for that to be the position. Because that’s the way these guys work, and I have no doubt that should “strict liability” come into existence the regulations would be no more robust than the current rules, but would morph, instead, into an awful Offensive Behaviour at Football Act written by the governing bodies themselves, one handing match delegates complete discretion over what constitutes an offense … and that’s to say nothing of their famous “compliance officer” and what his own godforsaken role in all this would be.

Uh-uh. Not a chance in Hell.

Someone like Vince Lunny, with the power to deduct points and close stadiums because of what he personally finds offensive? Newspaper media rooms and PR companies scanning YouTube footage deep into the night and submitting it for his “assesment”?

You can see where Celtic might have a problem with this idea, right?

We may as well shut the stadium right now.

Even if the SFA could be trusted (I know, I’m laughing too) I’m not in favour of strict liability anyway, because it’s too easy to extend and amplify and would, eventually, turn all football grounds into soulless cathedrals of consumerism and make the experience akin to going to the theatre.

Regan uses UEFA as his exemplar here, because these rules already exist there.

Ha!

The SFA’s newfound embrace of UEFA standards is heartening but much too selective, and that’s the real problem here and where Regan’s hypocrisy is most clearly expressed.

There are UEFA regulations which do badly need implementing in Scottish football, foremost amongst them the one governing Financial Fair Play.

That it hasn’t already been passed is ridiculous; the English leagues got their house in order on that score five years ago.

But, of course, there isn’t strictly an establishment favourite club down there, one that would fall foul of those regulations every single year.

Quite how anyone could argue that Sevco would not be in current breach of those rules escapes me … which is exactly why they’ve yet to see the light of day, and why I suspect they never actually will.

King’s big talk about “front loaded investment” was always bluff and bluster anyway, but the whole concept has still been allowed a credibility it doesn’t deserve. That we continue to perpetuate this dangerous nonsense as somehow “good for the game” is part of a wider problem Regan and his people don’t even seem to want to acknowledge let alone do something about.

No, this is more typical of them, to focus on a cheap headline, a one day story, to leap onto a passing bandwagon.

This isn’t leadership; it’s deflection.

It’s an attempt to steer the agenda away from his favourite club at a time when the governing bodies are inextricably bound to their fate, and heading for a calamity that will make 2012 seem like small beer.

Regan would have been better focussing on that, or on the certainty that his name will come up over and over again during the trials of Whyte and Green.

If he wants to give the lawyers something to do he can dig out the emails he and Whyte exchanged, and the minutes of his discussions with Green, and others, and get the SFA legal team to investigate whether or not they were party to a fraud, however unwittingly it might have been,

I don’t like this guy; that’s no secret. I think he’s a coward and a charlatan and that he’s been wrong, and his association has been wrong, on every major issue of the last five years except the appointment of Gordon Strachan.

He and those around him can preen and posture for the cameras all day long. They can write all the useless and doomed regulations they want. They can fritter away the remainder of their time in office by pandering to the press and the Ibrox mob. Or they can find ways, even now, to redeem their reputations before it all comes crashing down.

This is partly about that, of course, about legacy shopping; one good deed to try and counter all the years of sitting on his hands. I’m not fooled for a minute, and no-one else should be either.

I’m past caring what choices they make.

But I’m damned if I’ll sit in silence whilst they try to use my club and its fans as a deflector shield when the biggest and most serious issues in the Scottish game can still be traced right to the door of another stadium in Glasgow and to the actions of a procession of dodgy geezers Regan and his people said were “fit and proper.”

Stewart Regan, leading reform?

Don’t make me laugh.

His real motivations are more transparent than he thinks.

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Mouthy Malmo Need Shutting Up

Ronny-Deila-009I’ve seen a lot of managers cross the threshold of Celtic Park, and leave mouthing off. Football is full of these people. Win a league title, win a couple of trophies, and some managers believe they are a few games away from a call from Barcelona.

Rarely have I wanted to see the smirk wiped off a face as much as last night, listening to the Malmo boss, Age Hareide in the aftermath of that game.

We won the match 3-2, and their second goal came deep in injury time. Our keeper was barely tested during the match but they came away with what looks like a very credible result.

At least on paper.

In truth, we outplayed them for much of the match and had easily the better chances. Indeed, we could have been three or four up by the midway point in the first half, and if Stefan Johansen had scored when through on the keeper the tie would have been done.

It takes a special kind of arrogance to emerge from a close escape like that full of predictions of what your team will do in the second leg. It takes someone monumentally full of himself to predict, after a defeat, that his team is wholly confident of going through.

He’s basing much of this on what his team has done in previous rounds, and in previous years. But football isn’t about that; it’s about “what have you done for me lately?” It’s about the present day, the here and now, not the last game but the next one.

He leads a team which, itself, has way too much to say for a side currently sixth in their domestic title race and who’s last qualification for the Champions League Groups ended in a bottom place finish, with one win and five defeats in six games … a record even a Rangers manager would have blanched at, although they managed the feat twice.

I can understand a side giving out a bit of verbal if they are conquerors, although the actual conquerors, the super clubs, tend not to be so small minded and petty. They act with a certain class and dignity which Malmo simply don’t have.

The Swedes are far from that level though, appearing to take an inordinate amount of pride in a tendency to scrape through ties after poor first legs.

This “home record” of theirs is being talked about a lot, as if it’s comparable with the one we used to have at Fortress Parkhead.

Two years ago, they reached the Groups and this was their competition record at home.

They drew 0-0 with Ventspilis of Latvia, going through courtesy of a 1-0 win over there, they beat Sparta Prague 2-0 to overturn a two goal deficit from the first leg (4-2) and then they beat Red Bull Salzburg 3-0 after losing the away game 2-1.

In the groups they beat Olympiakos 2-0 before losing 2-0 to both Atletico Madrid and Juventus.

This season, so far, their European home record is a 0-0 draw with Žalgiris Vilnius, and proceeding due to a 1-0 win away as well as another 3-0 win over Red Bull Salzburg, who had beaten them 2-0 at home and shamefully couldn’t close the deal.

I don’t know … I am less than terrified.

They don’t appear to concede a lot of goals at home, but so what?

Aside from their Champions League Groups last season they’ve not exactly come across world beaters.

Red Bull Salzburg looked a good side when we were still trying to become one … Age Hareide reckons they are a better team than us, but I think he’ll be eating those words come this time next week. Red Bull’s own record is hardly staggering. I would have been wholly confident of taking them the distance had we drawn them instead.

Malmo have played 20 matches in their domestic league this season, and won 10 of them with seven draws and three defeats. Their defensive record at home is good there too, but that is where their weakness lies and it’s that we must exploit.

Score early over there, blow apart this grandiose belief that they’re something special at that ground and watch the dynamic of this tie change radically. You can’t have watched how we scythed open their defence last night, almost at will, in those first 20 minutes, and doubt that we’re capable – well capable – of going there and scoring not only once but a couple of times.

One of the criticisms Age Hareide levelled at us in the aftermath of last night’s game was that we don’t seem to have the legs for 90 minutes … worryingly, I do think we tend to fall out of games late in the day at the present time, switching off at stupid moments as we did against Kilmarnock and with the concession of the second goal in this tie.

But an analysis of their form this season shows, clearly, that they tend to peak in the first half. Their performance last night actually bucked that trend, which makes it all the harder to take.

This suggests to me an inability on their own part to effectively go the distance. I didn’t think they looked fitter or sharper than us last night, and but for lamentable defending at the crucial moment we’d have gone there by far the more confident team.

I see no reason not to still have that confidence.

My belief that we’d win this tie was never based solely on a strong home performance and then merely surviving the away leg. It was based on a belief, one that hasn’t changed, that we would win both home and away, and their record be damned.

They are a good team, and their defensive record is impressive. Indeed, at home it’s very impressive. But their record as comeback kings doesn’t hugely impress, or intimidate, me.

You play football according to those odds and sooner or later you get found out.

Sooner or later you pay the penalty.

Teams from Lithuania and Latvia have gone to their ground and kept clean sheets, so I’m not entirely convinced that we need to be mortally afraid of conceding goals … their reputation as a tough side to get the best of appears to lie more in their own defensive record than their ability to destroy opposing teams.

Whatever happened to Red Bull being the notable exception.

And let’s take a look at what actually happened there; Malmo scored all three of their goals in the first half, and Red Bull were unable to test them, even when the Swedes had a player red carded. To me, that suggests greater deficiencies with the Austrian team than anything else.

Their arrogance would be intimidating to a side from the lower echelons of the game, but it should inspire nothing but contempt at Celtic Park. In the 15th minute of the game last night, with Johansen clean through on the keeper, they were out of Europe for all their bravado and big talk … and that our midfielder didn’t wrap it up in a bow is the only reason they left our ground with something other than a right good hiding.

Their manager thinks this tie is over. Berget talks about “taking revenge” as though our club did something to him, except try to resurrect his career. It was his own failings at Celtic Park that packed him off to Sweden, not some vindictiveness on our part.

This morning their players are calling ours pigs and children.

Offensive, crass and very, very stupid.

Use that arrogance Celtic.

Use it to destroy them on their own turf.

There is no greater weakness in sport.

If you were trying to inspire a side to give you a good thrashing you couldn’t do more and that Age Hareide allows his players to do this, that he perhaps even encourages such disrespect and trash talking, reveals his own lack of respect and hints at his own flowering ego and the belief that the call from the Nou Camp is due sooner or later.

The task facing our club couldn’t be clearer.

Aside from the bounty which will be ours if we make the Groups, the inspiraton, the motivation, is screaming at us out of every headline and back page. Our players better read it all, and burn those words into their minds … and avenge them.

All we have to do is go there and not lose.

They have to chase us, it’s that simple, and they expect it to be easy, for us to sit back and try and hold on to our narrow lead.

That we might come and try and score early apparently hasn’t dawned on them.

That we might just go out there and try and kill the tie stone dead hasn’t entered their darkest nightmare.

Yet it really is that simple.

Forget playing for the draw Ronny.

Go out there, Celts, and play for the win.

Because if we do that, we’ll get one.

We have better players in every department. We have the hunger and the will. We have Norways finest manager, someone developing in the right way and who has a humility and decency his opposite number would do well to learn from.

Age Hareide and his team need shutting up.

Do it Celtic.

Go over there and do it.

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Celtic, Bloggers & A Bankrupt Media Culture

CHINA-KENYA-AFRICA-MEDIA-NEWSPAPERRecently I’ve taken to closely watching the media’s falling circulation numbers.

There are a few people in Celtic cyberspace who’ve been watching those for a while, in particular the Scottish Football Monitor guys and some of the folks over at CQN.

Some of them publish the numbers every so often, and they’re all showing the old media in steady decline.

Paul67 over at CQN mourns this in a way, and says we’ll always need the media with their resources and the few diligent reporters who are capable of tackling a big story.

I agree with him, and there are some outstanding examples of what he means.

One of the best pieces of journalism I’ve seen in the last couple of years came from the BBC not long ago; it was Mark Daly’s magnificent and game changing investigation into doping in professional athletics. It was courageous and devastating.

It was a sensational example of the media doing what it is supposed to do.

We definitely need more of that.

Daly, of course, has been on our radar for a while.

He was the front man for the equally astonishing BBC documentary on Rangers “The Men Who Sold The Jerseys”, which their fans should have applauded for the way it dug into things the hacks hadn’t bothered with.

Of course, in the end they went hysterical, started their campaign against the BBC and that sowed the seeds for the recent ban on Chris McLaughlin.

Daly is at one end of the scale, the high end, that which sees journalists go out and find the news. That’s a small number of top quality operators doing the kind of work we’ll always need them to do, and which makes their profession shine.

Alex Thomson is another of them, and it’s really Alex I want to talk about here.

I read his recent article, on football teams banning journalists, with great interest, in particular as he chose to highlight Celtic in the piece.

I want to take issue with him on some of it.

For a start, because Alex of all people should know better.

He’s been up here to cover stuff they either missed or didn’t want to.

He knows what most of our hacks are worth.

He knows the ranks up here are filled with those who indulge in sensationalism and creating controversy where there is none.

Worse, it is populated with a more dangerous sort, those who write soup stirring, provocative nonsense.

Those people are an affront to journalism, an embarrassment to a profession which needs more people like him in it and less of them.

He is a real journalist, the kind who believes the calling is still sacred, that it’s still relevant and that it’s still important.

The problem, as he well knows, is that these people fall far below that standard.

I remember him going onto Radio Clyde and castigating the hacks for their failures in getting to the bottom of the Rangers story.

I remember him writing that it was not simply incompetence, but actually a media culture that exists up here whereby whatever comes out of Ibrox is all too often simply accepted without question.

He understands the “succulent lamb” culture very well.

He knows that’s how it works in Scotland, a country that for too long took way too seriously the pretensions and “cultural aspirations” of what the rampant egotist Murray called “the second biggest institution after the church.”

But you have to actually live here, and cover the media full time, which in a sense is what I now do, to truly understand there’s more to it than just that.

Take the John Collins thing that has filled the papers over the last week, pouring unrelenting negativity onto Celtic Football Club and its assistant manager.

This is a fine example of why our club has banned hacks in the past.

It is a complete non-story, blown up into something more by a media that creates these little dramas for its own ends.

At the same time, they’ve been endlessly promoting the line that Scottish football is basically worthless without a club called Rangers in the top flight for the last couple of years.

To look over their coverage during the period in which the future of our sport itself was up for grabs, when the SPL and SFA CEO’s wanted Sevco in the top flight, is to glimpse a world where this game only had two teams, and without them our sport was dead.

They know they are hypocrites.

That’s not the point.

The Collins furore was nothing more than an exercise in slapping Celtic and the same people who are stirring this soup have spent the last month trying to destabilise Scott Allan’s relationship with his own club and get him a move to his “boyhood heroes” (who he’s already spurned two chances to join) at Ibrox.

Today those same hacks claim Celtic are in the running for his signature, and a couple of them have suggested that this is “mischief making” on our part, as if we’re in the habit of spending six figure sums of money for the purposes of one-upsmanship … an idea so preposterous that I would be in the carpark with a Board Out banner if I thought it was even remotely true.

Some of these guys are very obviously working hand in hand with PR companies too and if those PR companies happen to have very clear, historical, leanings towards a certain Scottish football club … well that neither seems to bother the hacks or their bosses.

In fact, when said club was trying to sell season tickets last month some of the hacks were only too pleased to help … and a PR firm publicly thanked them for it in the aftermath.

It’s wee things like this that bother a lot of neutrals, and definitely Celtic fans.

And it ought to bother Thomson more than it does, because this isn’t what their profession is supposed to do. In fact, it debases what it exists for.

So for the record, I have no problem with our club banning people who can’t report accurately or fairly and who routinely bang the drum for PR firms and their clients instead of doing the news.

Thomson himself is still allowed at Celtic Park having once compared us to Millwall, and people like English, Spiers and others are perfectly welcome despite their own articles criticising transfer policy, team selection, managerial decisions and much else.

I don’t have a problem with those kind of articles and neither does Celtic.

Those are simply reporters doing their jobs, and giving their opinions, and even if those opinions are thoroughly barking – like Spiers today, and his “mischief making” headline in relation to the Allan saga – by and large I don’t mind them.

Our club is not anti-journalism.

It’s simply not prepared to put up with constant abuse and the twisting of the truth.

Truth. You know, that thing the whole profession used to strive for?

Negativity day on day, just for the sake of it, or to try and unsettle our club … that’s not journalism. As far as I’m concerned that’s an abuse of responsibility and not something we should be allowing from our front room.

Thomson was, of course, writing in the aftermath of Sevco’s decision to ban Spiers and Chris McLaughlin of the BBC. Where he went wrong was in falling into a famous Scottish sports journalist trap; in the interests of trying to find “balance” he equated our decision to ban Keevins last year with what happened at Ibrox, when there’s no similarity between the two.

Keevins’ brand of hackery is a discredited joke, and Celtic’s decision not to credential him for matches simply freed up a seat in the press area for a real journalist.

No-one should be mourning that, or questioning why Celtic did it.

The reasons for it – including a blatantly untrue story relating to Sean Fallon’s 90th birthday – are well known and have been explored here and elsewhere at length already.

The reasons why Sevco banned two journalists a couple of weeks ago are also well known, and they were exactly the kind of attacks on free speech that Thomson has been seeking to highlight in his piece.

He says Celtic’s bans harmed the club … actually the individuals we banned harm his profession and its standing and that offered an alibi to people like Dave King when he decided he was going to go on a crusade against probing questions.

The problem here is that the media has a tendency to protect all of its people, all of the time, as if an attack on one was an attack on all of them … utter nonsense as he doubtless knows.

Too many people hide behind a press card when they want to go off on one, using the concept of “journalistic freedom” to justify agenda based attacks and sensationalism.

A lot of members of that profession come to their aid and lend them support reflexively, instead of considering whether or not their behaviour is suspect.

I’ve looked into getting my NUJ card and so I know they have guidelines, rules and regulations on professionalism, honesty and integrity.

I’m not suggesting they start weeding people out if they devalue those concepts, but everyone knows that a lot of people in the profession have signed the paperwork and then paid lip service to those ideals.

It was Truman Capote who said “The problem with living outside the law is that you no longer have its protection”.

When journalists go off the reservation and start pursing wee personal vendettas and acting as the PR wing for certain institutions that ought to end all discussion of offering them the protections that go with freedom of the press.

Those protections exist to promote the telling of hard truth, and tackling abuse of power; they are not there to give a shield to those who sensationalise and lie.

What I’m saying is that I would have no problem whatsoever with what Thomson wrote if his own profession was more equipped to deal with those who disgrace it rather than waiting for other people to do it and then getting defensive.

Phil Mac Giolla Bháin has echoed exactly the sort of sentiments Thomson recently did, and has called the banning of journalists “the road to succulent lamb.”

He worries that it will lead to the press developing an unhealthy relationship with our own club, in due course, which prevents fans from getting to the truth about what we’re up to.

I understand the sentiment, but I don’t think it’s likely.

Because whereas Paul67 is right that the media will always be needed to do the job of chasing the stories the bloggers can’t, we are becoming very skilled in our own way and we’re perfectly capable of taking our own clubs to task when it comes time to do that.

It was the bloggers who blew open the biggest story in the history of Scottish sport. RTC and other sites were there well ahead of the mainstream press, including Mark Daly and the BBC. Where his documentary proved useful was in holding a megaphone to work done elsewhere, amplifying the volume a thousand times, to a national audience we weren’t able to reach.

He made it a mainstream story rather than one on the fringes.

But the gap between the mainstream and those fringes has blurred of late, and the number of hacks and former hacks now on Twitter and in the blogosphere increases our visibility every single day, because aside from name recognition we’re all on the same playing field.

And holding our own clubs to account is part of that now.

For myself, I’ve tried to tell the truth as I see it. I’ve probably got the facts wrong on a couple of occasions, but I never set out to deliberately mislead … which is the difference.

On top of that, I’ve never been particularly bothered about who my stuff annoyed.

I have criticised Celtic – venomously – on any number of occasions, and whereas a lot of the Celtic blogs and their writers have been invited to Parkhead for tea and biscuits I never have and frankly I never expect to be.

And this is not me complaining or saying those guys go easy on the club; I know a lot of them well and they are nobody’s lackies or puppets.

It’s just that some people at Celtic Park see some value in opening dialogue with them and that’s pointless as far as it goes with me, although I understand that a good relationship between the blogs and the club is valuable.

But I self-exile myself from Celtic Park in light of how strong my views are and, speaking personally, I prefer it this way for the moment as it allows me the benefit of distance and detachment and I feel more comfortable with that.

For all that, I bear the club no ill will as a consequence of my position, because it is a personal choice, and I feel pretty sure that if I were to open that dialogue myself that the club would be happy to extend me an invite to talk on the same basis as the rest.

In short, I do not believe Celtic is in the business of censorship. Phil has little to worry about in that regard, and that’s where I think Alex Thomson was 100% wrong to base much of his article on that proposition.

The truth is that there are people inside Celtic Park who simply will not tolerate day on day attacks on them and the club itself.

Speaking as someone who defends free speech in a way the club doesn’t believe in – the right of our supporters to sing Republican songs and fly their political banners for example – I cannot fault them for taking a hard-line position on certain hacks.

What’s more, Keevins and others were not encumbered in any way by the ban; it was symbolism and nothing more, but symbolism has its importance.

They themselves boasted that it had no impact beyond that; they were able to continue writing whatever they liked. Celtic was not impacting on their ability to make a living or carry out their duties.

They just weren’t allowed to do it from soft seats in the stand, provided to them free of charge.

Sevco’s decision to ban Chris McLaughlin and Graham Spiers, and perhaps others in due course, is different, and it is ludicrous because it is very clearly an attempt at censorship.

Celtic, to my knowledge, never publicised the bans on Keevins, Jackson and others.

They didn’t use those bans as explicit warnings to the rest of the press pack to start toeing the line.

Sevco, on the other hand, went out of their way to make their position public, and their supporters groups were happy to throw their two bobs worth into the discussion for good measure.

What’s more, they were very clear on the reasons for the action.

They didn’t like the journalists involved writing stories that put them in a bad light.

They make no bones about that, or what the objective is.

You have to give them credit for being brazen if nothing else.

It was clearly a move designed to intimidate those who were perhaps starting to ask some long overdue questions, or who were, in McLaughlin’s case, drawing attention to serious, inherent, problems those in the boardroom ignored the last time they were there and would rather pretend weren’t still affecting the club today.

They are gleeful about this on the Sevco forums, where they have learned nothing from recent years when PR companies sold them on Craig Whyte, Charles Green and others and are now feeding them from the same dirty spoons a feast of the same from Dave King.

Alex Thomson chose to focus the bulk of his article on effect, not on cause. His effort to find balance equated one with the other, when they are not alike at all.

There are good journalists out there, those who are in the profession to “do the news”, those who want to uncover the things those in power would rather remained secret, those who are doing the best they can to see that facts and truth come to light.

We will always need them, and those of us who care about the profession and about the truth itself will always have their back.

One of my heroes of the last twelve months is a guy whose opinions and mine could not be more diametrically opposed – Peter Oborne, formerly of The Telegraph – who resigned from his job because of what his newspaper had become; little more than an advertising board, with editorial content skewed accordingly.

Because this isn’t about agreeing or disagreeing with what we read day after day. Intellectual integrity is about respecting differing opinions and even bending some ways towards them.

All we want to know for sure is that our press is well informed, and well intentioned, and that its output is not simply constructed to further agendas or deceive the readers.

As the media appears unable to self-police – and you only need to look at the political writers in Westminster to see how unlikely that is to change – then, sadly for us all, other institutions will have to take a stand against shoddy journalism and the manufacturing of controversy for its own sake, not to mention the dissemination of lies.

It’s all very well for Alex Thomson to point to legal recourse as the way to get justice, but you need very deep pockets and to be in it for the long haul to pursue that avenue, as he knows full well, and the best you can hope for in the bulk of those cases, after you’ve paid lawyers’ fees and court expenses is a short apology on page 51.

Not good enough. Nowhere near it.

Too much of Scotland’s sports coverage is slanted, biased and ignorant.

Some writers even manage to slap together pieces that are a combination of all three.

Not everyone involved in the media here has noble intentions or pursues the higher goals for which the profession exists. Wild egotism, bias and self-interest are rampant.

A press card doesn’t come with a halo, and even if it did there are some who would wear it well and still perform the Devil’s work.

That is an offense against all of us and the media shouldn’t expect that we will simply sit back and take it.

Those days are over with, forever.

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Mouthy McCann At It Again

neil-mccann-sky-sports-pundit-hamilton-v-celtic-17th-jan-2015I’m a cynical man at times.

When I read in a newspaper how someone has said “I don’t have all the answers but …” I generally think that we’re about to be lectured by someone who thinks he does.

Today Neil McCann is imparting his “wisdom” to the rest of Scottish football, and as per usual it is arrogant, myopic and centred on one club.

I don’t know about you, but I can only take so much of this “Celtic and Scottish football” needs a strong Rangers” guff before I want to throw up.

Even if it were true, the entity to which the second part of the sentence refers is gone three years now, whether you believe in the Survival Myth or not. The inability of people in our media to acknowledge that – or perhaps just to accept it – continues to stagger me.

How many words have I written on this subject?

Thousands, certainly. Tens of thousands. Hundreds of thousands perhaps.

That’s a good sized novel right there, something with about 500 pages, and that’s just my output.

Other websites have weighed in, and not just Celtic ones.

Those of Hearts fans, Aberdeen fans, Dundee Utd fans, Motherwell fans, Hibs fans … and on and on.

All have had their say and they’ve all written the same stuff; that the era of the duopoly is over, that this is good for Scottish football and that it is arrogant at best for people to simply assume that if Sevco climbs out of the Championship (and doesn’t suffer an administration or liquidation in the process) that they will be Celtic’s main challengers.

It ignores so much evidence. It denies all reality entirely.

McCann’s “interview” is proof of the poverty of our press.

He resurrected that old chestnut about summer football, as if there is even one word that hasn’t already been written or said or published on that subject. According to the press this issue is now “back on the agenda” but the last time I looked McCann wasn’t an official with the governing bodies, who are the only people who are in a position to do any such thing.

Summer football would be nice. But how many times do we need to revisit it?

It’s not going to happen unless the clubs vote for it, and they’ve passed up many a chance to do it over the years.

Maybe it’s a Scottish thing.

Maybe we just can’t get behind the idea.

Maybe we prefer to see football played in the mud and the rain.

McCann has always baffled me anyway. Quite how he landed a gig on the telly in the first place is quite amazing. His commentary is obvious, his biases shocking and his looking for controversy where none exists is the hallmark of the headline chaser.

Last week, he was busy telling every media outlet who would give him airtime how Danny Wilson was a fantastic signing for Sevco, and had he left it at that there would have been no problem.

But McCann went further and said Wilson had chosen the Ibrox club over clear interest from Celtic.

There was just one problem with that, of course; it wasn’t true.

Celtic fans have a long history with this guy and the way he has a pop at us every chance he gets.

This site wrote an article about him after his gurning, spiteful performance on Sky Sports after Celtic had beaten St Johnstone 3-0 at Perth, on the opening day last season, when Derk Boerrigter won Ronny Deila’s team a penalty and was then the subject of one of McCann’s tirades.

McCann’s demand for a video review panel was granted.

It ended up in a disciplinary case opened against our player.

I said at the time that he ought to be banned from Celtic Park fpor that little stunt.

I value free speech, but that only goes as far as the front door of my house,

My view was that if McCann and others want to have a pop at Celtic every chance they get it would be better if the club didn’t let them do it from our own front room.

He had another mad rant a few months later, accusing John Guidetti of “conning” a referee, a move which prompted Celtic’s manager to praise the standard of refereeing and make it clear how little he cared what the hacks and the pundits say.

McCann had been demanding that the SFA do the Swedish striker. When that didn’t work he said Celtic would have no choice but to carpet him in house because otherwise Deila was a hypocrite. Ronny ingored that, because those comments are simply unworthy of a response.

On top of his nonsense about summer football this morning, McCann was also pontificating on how little money there is in the Scottish game, longing for the days when every club was in debt, overpaying sub-standard players.

We can see why he hankers for those times; he did alright out of them.

He was at Rangers during Murray’s years of crazy spending and mad salaries, and he then found himself at Hearts when Romanov was running up the wage bill to the levels which almost wrecked the club last year.

Two clubs at which he played, both of whom ended up in financial trouble.

He was but one player on their books earning more than he ought to have.

Few other eras in the history of our game here have so healthily rewarded those with so little ability.

He was also the recipient of a very generous EBT, valued at £500,000.

Can he really be so dense that he doesn’t understand that this move away from insanity has put the Scottish game on its best financial footing in years?

Oh I know I moaned last week about Celtic and our transfer policy but whereas we can afford to spend a little more the rest of Scottish football has adjusted to reality … and it’s no coincidence this has happened since a certain club from Glasgow went to the wall.

People sometimes talk like Murray’s arms race with Celtic affected only our club. it didn’t. Every other team in Scotland, many of them benefiting from the same relationship with HBOS as he had (but which we, notably didn’t) found themselves chasing dreams.

The consequences of it lasted years.

That McCann doesn’t realise this, that he doesn’t get it, is all the more reason the football world should simply ignore him when he’s on one of his rants, but I guess someone, somewhere, is sitting nodding and reading him and saying “I agree with that”, although who that person might be and why they are allowed The Daily Record in a secure unit I don’t know.

It’s the final bit of his interview that grates the most though, and I’m sure it’s not just me who feels this way.

He’s talked, as many before him have, of the need for an Ibrox club in the top flight, for the “good of the Scottish game” of course, and to “challenge Celtic.”

He even thinks that league reconstruction would be an acceptable way to get that outcome.

I’m sure that the fans of clubs outside of Glasgow, looking at these comments, will be purely and simply furious at the sheer presumption in his remarks.

You might as well suspend Scottish football right here and now, because the biggest issues have already been decided.

Celtic will win the SPL without a ball even being kicked and Sevco will win the Championship.

They will improve so dramatically that next season is a foregone conclusion as well, and so the rest of our sides better learn to adjust.

I mean seriously. This is what the man is saying.

I am well past sick and tired of this kind of crap, and if that’s how I feel as a Celtic supporter, I can only imagine how the supporters of the rest of the clubs react when they are written off or dismissed as irrelevant.

Ask the supporters of Hearts and Hibs, who must have borne the last close season with gritted teeth as they were told their clubs would simply be swept aside.

Ask the fans of Motherwell, who turned up at Ibrox for the play-off final first leg with the whole of the Scottish press engaged in an orgy of anticipation for the coming season, having already made up their minds that Sevco would be in the top flight.

The simple fact that McCann and others have yet to grasp is that the Ibrox team isn’t automatically going up this season either.

Hibs and St Mirren and Queen of the South and Falkirk and others will make that a hard, hard task for them and that task will be one hundred times harder if people at Ibrox believe all this nonsense about going back to “where they belong.”

(Here’s a hint for any Sevconians reading; you’re a NewCo that rose from the ashes of a liquidation. Where you belong, therefore, is the graveyard. That’s why we call you zombies after all.)

Should they make it – and that’s a big if – McCann and others are in for one Hell of a shock, because “challenging Celtic” would be a big enough ask on its own if we were the only team in this league (as some hacks appear to think.)

Sevco isn’t remotely ready for that, and it will take years before they are.

I’ve said before that when a genuine challenge to Celtic does emerge – and one will, it has to – it will not be from this city but from Edinburgh or the north of Scotland.

I would welcome that challenge, of course, wherever it comes from.

But if it comes from, say, Aberdeen or Hearts we’ll know, at least, that it’s built on solid foundations and not on the old methods, the ones Neil McCann seems to be touting, the ones Dave King speaks about with forked tongue.

Whether he’s serious or not, that’s largely unimportant.

What he’s talking about, what McCann wants to see, is a return to the old order, to the old way of doing things, and it’s high time the SFA got serious about Financial Fair Play and forced clubs to spend only what they earn, instead of leaving the door open for another bout of financial madness which does the game no good at all.

The coming season is going to be just as important for what happen off the pitch as for what happen on it.

We have a new head at the SFA, and he deserves to be given a chance, to see what kind of ideas he brings to the organisation, and what changes he makes. Introducing FFP would be a Hell of a start.

In the meantime, we’re going to have to listen to idiots like McCann, pontificating on the need to keep the balls round, to make sure we don’t lose sight of the importance of goal nets and to speculate on whether we’d do better if the pitches were multi-coloured and split into zones. (FIFA were asked to consider that some years ago. If it helped Sevco in any way the Scottish media would be all for it, so watch this space.)

Scottish football needs a strong media, as much as our media appears to need a strong Sevco.

It’s nonsense like the stuff McCann is running out today that reminds us – as if we need it – that we’re about a million miles away from having one. Our press are a joke. Our “standard of journalism” continues to not only scrape the bottom of the barrell but bore right through it.

Thank God for the Internet Bampots.

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Halfway to Paradise

JS9406424Who in their right mind would have thought two weeks ago that Celtic would be just one game away from qualification for the Champions League Group Stage?

Tonight’s match against the Slovenia champions will not only yield millions for Glasgow’s only cash rich club but will be absolutely pivotal in moulding Celtic, and manager Ronny Deila’s, season.

But we’re only Halfway to Paradise. So near, yet so far away.

Celtic will win the league, of course. Of that I no doubt. If they pick up a cup along the way, Ronny will have achieved a huge amount in his first season. But I want to be dining out with the Barcelonas, the Real Madrids, the Milans and Bayerns of this world. Life will be a lot duller without it. The stakes are indeed high.

After a good, steady professional performance at the Stadium Ljudski it would be a living nightmare if Celtic did not progress. Unthinkable.

It was a total transformation from the two ties against Legia Warsaw, but before I talk about that I have to condemn Sky Sports, who decided to run a poll all day – on the matchday itself – on whether Celtic should have been there or not. It backfired and to be honest, they should be treading carefully considering a huge amount of subscribers in Scotland will be Hoops fans.

Back to the real football matters.

Deila and Collins got it right and a few eyebrows were raised as Commons sat on the bench. I would have perhaps brought Commons on to replace Stokes later in the game as he holds the ball up better than anyone else in the team, but overall we had few complaints. It was a good performance and a fine result.

In fact, we should have won the game, and we had the chances to, but like most I would have taken a score draw over there. Chances by Mulgrew, Van Dijk and Johansen could have gone in on another night but they didn’t. Celtic’s tactics were spot on though. They knew Maribor played a counter-attack system and, in the main, nullified it.

Following the Legia matches Celtic were heavily criticised and rightly so. But fair play to the management and the players. They stepped up to the plate, pulled their socks up and got on with it.

What most of us are tending to forget  is Deila has picked up Neil Lennon’s side and we expected instant results. Once we had wiped the egg from our faces and taken the early season wake up call courtesy of the Poles, we look that bit better. As I travelled to the Dundee United match last week I had serious doubts about Celtic’s ability to chalk up a win. How wrong I was as United were slapped about like a red-headed stepchild.

It’s been a crazy start to the season.  Reyjkavik were never going to be a challenge and Warsaw proved you take nothing for granted. Inverness was a bad result, but with a weakened team, with this game in mind, and before it Celtic had scored nine league goals in two games, conceding just one.

The green shoots of recovery are sprouting.

I firmly believe Deila is gaining a true understanding of his players abilities. Young McGregor put a shift and a half in. He has ernomous potential and looks like a good old-fashioned winger with the ability to pop up and score. On top of that Deila has form for bringing youth through and developing them well.

I’m buzzing ahead of tonights game. All the signs are good and I wasn’t particularly impressed by any of Maribor’s players in the first leg. The front man Tavares looked decent and is clever on the ball but for a counter-attacking side, they lacked pace.
Despite my confidence, I do have some concerns over our defensive abilities. Van Dijk is one hell of a player but at times his positional sense lets him down. He wandered aimless which allowed Maribor the cut the defense open easily.

That’s why I think Celtic’s approach may be a little more cagey. Maribor will definitely try to hurt us on the break. The more we pressurise them in their own half, the more chance we have of scoring from corners and free-kicks. They looked dodgy at corners and had Johansen not been on the line Van Dijk would have give Celtic a lead for the home tie. Mulgrew and Lustig also had chances from corners.

In saying that, Maribor must take the game to Celtic at some stage and this could leave them vulnerable.

The Group Stages are within touching distance and the Solvenians are there for the taking.

I don’t care about how much money is at stake. It’s the prestige. I want to hear Zadok the Priest ring out at a packed Parkhead at least three times more.

The player’s showed their mettle in Slovenia, as well as their class against United, and they will be backed by a partisan crowd who love nothing more than taking on Europe’s elite.

We’ve witnessed bigger and better teams crumble in the intesity of the Celtic’s Green and White Arena. Let’s crank it up for the vistors. Let them know we are there.

Give the player’s that extra backing that will carry them on to the next episode.

Then, and only then we can close the Legia Chapter.

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Is McCann Really The Man?

_953651_fergusmccann300Everyone and their granny has spent the last week lavishing praise on, generally fawning over, and paying tribute to good ol’ Fergus McCann for not only rescuing Celtic from near death but instilling financial prudence into Celtic’s work ethic off the field.

Even Dermot Desmond. Yes, the man of few words has also said his piece this week. You could probably count on one hand the number of public statements Desmond has made in the last 20 years.

Despite shying from publicity and more often than not taking a vow of slience, the Irishman has received far less praise for putting far more money into Celtic than McCann. When will we be marking his 20th Anniversary?

I don’s subscribe to the hero-worshipping of McCann (despite sharing a surname).

Am I grateful that he spearheaded the team that saved Celtic? Of course. Only an idiot would think otherwise.

But McCann also walked away with something estimated to be in the region of £40m. For five years work. 15 years ago. Imagine what value that would be now? Did he deserve the pay-out? Maybe, but let’s not be kidded here – he was a shrewd businessman who saw an opportunity. I find it preposterous than an already wealthy man took that amount of money with him. Worst still, he’s a Celtic fan like you and I.

Figures banded about at the time said he’d invested £9m of his own cash and got five times the return.

Some say, it was £1m of his own dough, with £8m borrowed. A high risk strategy or a cunning plan by a clever, feisty businessman?

When I learned, at the time, of the sum he set off into the sun with I can’t say I was too pleased. I’m still not. If he had doubled or trebled it, fair play. But he pocketed five times this. There was no parting financial gift. If it were me, I would have donated money back to help with the team – the core of the club.

How often have you dreamed of winning the Lotto? How big was the win? When Colin and Christine Weir of Largs won £161m my first thought was – “I’d give Celtic £50m for the transfer market”. Of course, that’s after I’d sorted my family out and bought an Island.

That sum is off the scale in terms of what we, as ordinary people, could fully understand.

£45m fifteen years ago is unimaginable wealth to the ordinary guy in the street. Even nowadays it’s a ridiculous amount of money. And let’s not forget – McCann had made his fortunes elsewhere. Why, as a Celtic fan, would you not give a good wedge to the club you love? I’d happily donate £15m to help the cause, unless you think £30m wouldn’t see you through to the next pay day?

I am by no means ungrateful for what McCann did but the lavishing of praise doesn’t impress me. I totally get how near Celtic was to going out of business. I can remember the caring attitude towards me by Rangers fans at the time. There was a lot of hugging and counselling from them – it was almost becoming an obsession. (I’ll now take my embedded tongue out of my cheek).

He also introduced “Bhoys Against Bigotry” which to me was the prelude to The Offensive Behaviour Act. He set out to sanitise Celtic Park and that’s one thing I believe he succeeded at. Every one of the 53,000 sat in fear of being banned from Paradise for having a sly fag, smelling of drink and of course, using any form of sectarian words. The police then were heavy-handed and some of the Celtic support, most of whom were plucked from the middle-classes, turned into snitches. The cultured has changed. It’s gone.

McCann sought to turn Celtic Park into your typical American baseball arena. He wanted it filled with families chewing gum, sipping Coke and munching hot dogs. The working class man was confined to the skelf-ridden bleachers.

What I found ironic at the time was that Celtic had launched an anti-sectarian initiative when most of it’s fans come from Irish Catholic backgrounds and had been subject to the very thing they were to campaign against.

To be fair Celtic has done extremely well and will continue to do well because of financial prudence. Sometimes, I just wish they would loosen the purse strings. Give us a marquee signing; speculate to accumulate. Take a risk for God’s sake. But they won’t. McCann’s aim was to ingrain this in Celtic from the day the he took over to the day he left, and his legacy continues.

I applaud Fergus for what he did at the time and that’s not lost on me but spare me the the razzamatazz and the cheerleading.

There are others more deserving of it. Like the fans who really did save Celtic, and build the stadium.

Our monument is what we leave to our children and their children. It’s all we ever cared about.

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